No 1. The Florida Project
Sean Baker’s warm-hearted third feature takes us to Florida, to a tacky sun-blasted highway strip near DisneyWorld (“the happiest place on earth”) lined with abandoned and derelict condos, garishly painted roadside stalls which have all seen better days and ratty motels which now house those too poor to get a foothold in the rental market. Quickly the camera settles in on 6-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and a couple of her friends who are skipping through this world laughing and playing pranks, completely at ease in their world of weed-smoking parents, charity trucks handing out bread and jam and delinquent, possibly predatory adults. For quite a few masterfully framed scenes, which do little to advance the plot, we share and enjoy the kids’ adventures – this is easily the best depiction of a child’s life since Boyhood. Moonee’s mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) is what we’d call “a piece of work”, a foul-mouthed scammer, sex worker and maybe the world’s worst parent. Yet clearly there’s real love and warmth between the pair, and Halley, in her own outrageous but appalling way does try to do her best for her daughter. Willem Dafoe, in a career-best performance, is the gruff but kindly motel manager who looks out for the kids, and he seems to have all the injustices and pain of the whole rotten capitalist world on his shoulders. His motel, the evocatively titled “Magic Castle” is the real Heartbreak Hotel – life for Moonee can’t continue like this, and it doesn’t. A sense of dread starts to build as events build to a climax – surely this is going to end badly… It does, in a way and you might need tissues, and yet the final scene, one of the most magical I’ve seen on screen, is joyously transcendent. What an ending! What a movie! MA15+ from Dec 21.
No 2 – 10: And now the rest…
The Florida Project scores the top spot, but only by a whisker. Though really The Square (above) should have won… Featuring the ever-busy and quite brilliant Elizabeth Moss (pictured above arguing with Claes Bang over the contents of a full condom), it’s easily 2017’s most definitive film as well as being an hilarious and outrageous take on progressive social mores. But can a film that only got a couple of outings at the 2017 Sydney Film Festival be counted? Happily it is now finally getting a general release in March 2018 – so do keep an eye out for it next year. Anyway for 2017… in order – The Florida Project, Call Me By Your Name, Blade Runner 2049, Good Time, Dunkirk, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Teacher, Raw, Mother! and because I’d better include a comedy after that lot, The Big Sick.
Most over-rated: Girls Trip
Worst: Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Reviews – Russell Edwards